What foods are banned in the EU but not in the USA – coming to the UK after Brexit

From April this year, Britain will (probably) be leaving the EU and therefore much of its public safeguard legislation. The Brexiteers want more than anything a trade deal with America. Food standards will likely fall in order that Britan can compete to sign trade deals with the rest of the world. More importantly, it will reduce its legal food standards to that of the lowest common denominator in the West – that of America.

  • European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American food products
  • Protection measures only apply to (approximately) 400 of the 2,700 substances intentionally added to foods known to be carcinogens
  • Food-processing companies will reformulate a food product for sale in Europe but continue to sell the product with the additives in the United States
  • Post-Brexit trade deal with America will inevitably cause foods standards to ‘align’ with USA

The European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American-made bread, biscuits, cakes, soft drinks and other processed foods. Europe also bans the use of a whole line-up of drugs that are commonly used in farm animals in the United States, and many European countries limit the cultivation and import of genetically modified foods.

In some cases, food-processing companies will reformulate a food product for sale in Europe but continue to sell the product with the additives in the United States,” said Lisa Y. Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety advocacy organization.

A 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from approving food additives that are linked to cancer, but an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and “therefore are not regulated as food additives.” In any event, protection measures only apply to (approximately) 400 of the 2,700 substances intentionally added to foods.

For example – Last October, the New York Times reported that “America’s Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A). agreed to ban six artificial flavouring substances shown to cause cancer in animals, following petitions and a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other organizations. The F.D.A. insists the six artificial flavours “do not pose a risk to public health,” but concedes that the law requires it not approve the food additives. Food companies will now have at least two years to remove them from their products.

The New York Times also produced a list of just some of the food additives restricted by the European Union but allowed in American foods. We must stress that this is just some and by no means anything like a comprehensive list of banned substances that, after Brexit will be allowed into Britain’s food chain without very strong legislation – something the Tories will simply not do as it will threaten a trade deal with America.

These additives are commonly added to baked goods, but neither is required, and both are banned in Europe because they may cause cancer. In recent years, some American restaurant chains have responded to consumer pressure and removed them from their food.

Potassium bromate is often added to flour used in bread, rolls, cookies, buns, pastry dough, pizza dough and other items to make the dough rise higher and give it a white glow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a possible human carcinogen, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to ban it nearly 20 years ago. The F.D.A. says potassium bromate has been in use since before the Delaney amendment on carcinogenic food additives was passed.

Azodicarbonamide, or ADA, which is used as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner, breaks down during baking into chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals. It is used by many chain restaurants that serve sandwiches and buns. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the F.D.A. to ban its use. The F.D.A. says it is safe in limited amounts.

The flavour enhancers and preservatives BHA and BHT are subject to severe restrictions in Europe but are widely used in American food products. While evidence on BHT is mixed, BHA is listed in a United States government report on carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.

BVO is used in some citrus-flavoured soft drinks like Mountain Dew and in some sports drinks to prevent separation of ingredients, but it is banned in Europe. It contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, and studies suggest it can build up in the body and can potentially lead to memory loss and skin and nerve problems. An F.D.A. spokeswoman said it is safe in limited amounts, and that the agency would take action “should new safety studies become available that raise questions about the safety of BVO.”

These dyes can be used in foods sold in Europe, but the products must carry a warning saying the colouring agents “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” No such warning is required in the United States, though the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. in 2008 to ban the dyes. Consumers can try to avoid the dyes by reading lists of ingredients on labels, but they’re used in so many things you wouldn’t even think of, not just candy and icing and cereal, but things like mustard and ketchup,” marshmallows, chocolate, and breakfast bars that appear to contain fruit, Ms. Lefferts, the food safety scientist, said.

The F.D.A.’s website says reactions to food colouring are rare but acknowledges that yellow dye No. 5, used widely in drinks, desserts, processed vegetables and drugs, may cause itching and hives.

The European Union also bans some drugs that are used on farm animals in the United States, citing health concerns. These drugs include bovine growth hormone, which the United States dairy industry uses to increase milk production. The European Union also does not allow the drug ractopamine, used in the United States to increase weight gain in pigs, cattle and turkeys before slaughter, saying that “risks to human health cannot be ruled out.” An F.D.A. spokeswoman said the drugs are safe.

SHARE THIS POST